“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” ~ Jane Austen


Apple BlossomsWith a foot of snow on the ground and near zero temps, this seems an apt time for an excerpt from my new herbal, Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles. The kindle version is out now; daughter Elise is formatting the print book. Lots of images to fit in. And now–apples. Bet you didn’t know they belonged in an herbal.

The history and lore behind apples is fascinating. And we all know what Johnny Appleseed thought vital to plant in America. The thing that most struck me in reading about apples, is how the history of the apple is closely linked with the history of man. From the earliest times, wherever people went, the apple went, and is associated with peace and a gentler life. If folk settled down, built a cottage and planted apple trees, that spoke to domesticity and disinterest in warfare. Maybe more people should plant them today. I do. And then all hold hands and sing the Johnny Appleseed Blessing to help bring about world peace.

AppleBack to apples. These early cultivars weren’t the sweet fruit we know today, but much smaller and tarter. In the Middle Ages, most apples were made into cider. By Shakespeare’s day, the new varieties were referred to as ‘dessert apples’ and served accompanied by caraway. Apples were probably introduced into Britain by the Romans and have a long history of use there. In the Scottish Highlands, the crabapple tree is the badge of the Lamont clan.

(Image of Cox’s Orange Pippin, an old heirloom apple)

From A Modern Herbal: “The chief dietetic value of apples lies in the malic and tartaric acids. These acids are of benefit to persons of sedentary habits, who are liable to liver derangements, and they neutralize the acid products of gout and indigestion. (You don’t want a deranged liver).

A knight, his lady, and an appleApple cookery is very early English: Piers Ploughman mentions ‘all the povere peple’ who ‘baken apples broghte in his lappes’ and the ever popular apple pie was no less esteemed in Tudor times than it is today, only our ancestors had some predilections in the matter of seasonings that might not now appeal to all of us, for they put cinnamon and ginger in their pies and gave them a lavish colouring of saffron. The original  pomatum seems to date from the herbalist Gerard’s days (1545-1612), when an ointment for roughness of the skin was made from apple pulp, swine’s grease, and rosewater. The Apple will also act as an excellent dentifrice.”

(Image of a knight, his lady, and an apple)

flowering crabapple April 2011 246From The Family Herbal: “The juice is cooling, and is good externally used in eruptions on the skin, and in diseases of the eyes, where a sharp humour is troublesome.”

(Crab apple in our yard)

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~Martin Luther

7 responses to ““Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” ~ Jane Austen

  1. I’m so glad we fix them up a little sweeter these days Beth! Fascinating history lesson!!! ❤

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  2. When our apple tree’s leaves change to gold, in January, they cast a golden hue to the kitchen that never ceases to enchant me.

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  3. That was interesting post. I prefer a sweet apple. Not a tart one. Reminds me of my grandma who never used sugar in pie. Had some tart apple pie.
    Sue B

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  4. Fall is my favorite time of year and one of the largest reasons for that is the wonderfully warm, crisp food that accompanies it. Apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, they’re all homey and comfort for me. Mathair and I have just bought our copy of Plants For A Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles and we are loving it! Great post, Beth.

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